Laugh if you want, but the Orlando Magic have been playing some of the NBA’s best basketball since the All-Star break.
11-2 in their past 13 games and 22-9 in their last 31, the Orlando Magic have the sixth-best Net Rating over their past 15 games (plus-7.4) and seventh-best since the All-Star break (plus-5.0).
Even more intriguing, the Magic have done it on both ends. The casual fan will be quick to tell you that the Magic have been the NBA’s fifth-best defense this season (106.6 points allowed, 107.0 Defensive Rating since All-Star break) but they may not know the Magic have also been a top-ten offense since the break, coming in at a tidy 112.1 Offensive Rating (ninth).
However, the Magic got a hell of a hand dealt to them in the Toronto Raptors. The Magic have been a top-six team in the second half of the season, but the Raptors have been even better finishing fifth in offensive rating and third in defense! The Raptors have also played with one hand tied behind their collective backs losing Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry for a collective 39 games this season, many of them for ‘rest purposes.’
Pascal Siakam, Danny Green and Lowry each hold double-digit ratings per 100 possessions, but they need Kawhi to round out their numbers. The five man unit of Green-Lowry-Leonard-Siakam-Ibaka carries with it a +10.3 rating per 100 possessions in over 546 minutes.
The loss of OG Anunoby will hurt the Raptors. While Anunoby plummets the squad’s offensive rating when he takes the floor (minus-10.0 per 100) he’s an athletic wing whom sizes up nicely against quick triggered gunmen like Terrence Ross. Some combination of Normal Powell or Patrick McCaw will likely assume those duties in addition to Danny Green.
The Human Torch is the first player to hit more than 200 3-pointers playing all 82 games, off the bench pic.twitter.com/hhSCeHr3m3— y - Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 12, 2019
It’s been well documented just how important Terrence Ross is to the Magic’s success. In addition to shooting 41.3% from three in the past 15 games, Ross’ plus-15.5 rating in wins and minus-17.3 in losses is by far the biggest swing among the Magic’s essential rotational players. If Ross can shake loose of a would-be stopper and turn himself back into the human torch, the Magic pose more of a threat than many might expect.
But the biggest difference maker for the Magic in the series is the man who won’t even see the floor.
The NBA has named Steve Clifford its Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for March and April, the league has announced.— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) April 11, 2019
The All-Star level play of Nikola Vucevic paired with steady play of Aaron Gordon and DJ Augustin then mixed with the recent surge of Evan Fournier and Jonathan Isaac is a credit to Clifford’s qualities. The anti-apologist hasn’t accepted failure throughout the season and has constantly pushed his squad for more, and they in turn responded down seven games below .500 in January.
Now he has the Magic believing they can capture competitiveness in a series against the team Vegas is giving fourth-best odds to win it all.
Steve Clifford on not accepting moral victories after Orlando’s close loss to Warriors:— The Lando (@TheLando__) November 27, 2018
- “We’ve gotta stop with that shit. You know what you either win or you lose. We’re good enough to win. There’s none of this you know “we played hard”, we’re not doing that anymore.”
The Orlando Magic will be hard pressed to take the likely Eastern Conference victor (IMO) to seven games, but they’re playing well enough to give the Raptors more than they expected to handle from a first-round opponent. Will it be enough to steal two games?